Deck The Halls
PG
Entertainment: +1
Acceptability: -1

Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick, Kristin Davis, Kristin Chenoweth. Holiday comedy. Written by Matt Corman & Chris Ord and Don Rhymer. Directed by John Whitesell.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Steve (Matthew Broderick), a suburban dad and Christmas enthusiast, leads a well-ordered, well-planned, and well-organized life. His new neighbor, Danny (Danny DeVito), is Steves polar opposite: a big personality with big dreams, which have yet to materialize. But Dannys latest dream -- to create the biggest holiday light display in the world, visible from outer space is turning Steves disciplined world into a chaotic nightmare. As Dannys home explodes with festive lights of incredible design, increasing complexity, and exponentially growing wattage, Steve becomes a man on a mission. At any cost, he will thwart Danny or top him.

PREVIEW REVIEW: First off, those involved in this film are talented people and I love the opening shot as the camera passes over a snowcapped mountainside to suddenly reveal a peaceful, Christmas-decorated hamlet. Its like a Hallmark Card. Of course, from the theater trailer, we know things are not going to remain cozy and warm for much longer. At this point, Im still as excited as a kid on Christmas morn. Then comes the first joke. The mayor of our quaint little setting tells Steve a secret about the police chief being a cross-dresser. Hmmm, that seems like a strange first joke for a film aimed at the family. Suddenly, Im visualizing parents throughout Americas dimmed movie theaters having to respond to, Daddy, whats a cross-dresser?

A few minutes later, Danny and his wife (played by Danny DiVito and Kristin Chenoweth) are introduced. They are stealing Steves paper while introducing themselves. Thats kind of funny. However, Kristin is, shall we say, bursting forth. In most subsequent scenes Ms. Chenoweth is decked out with equally low cleavage apparel that offers up her breasts like two baked squabs. Understand, I have nothing against squabs, I just thought their presentation here was another unusual choice for a family film.

Then sprinkled throughout this yuletide nonsense is the inclusion of several sexual innuendoes topped off by three 15-year-old girls gyrating in abbreviated Santa suits on a public stage as if performing a holiday-themed pole dance. Of course, this is played for laughs, as Steve and Danny view it while hurling sexual entandres, unaware that the three mini-skirted Santas helpers are their daughters. Next scene, the men are standing in a Catholic church, washing out their eyes with holy water. For what theyve just seen, Steve proclaims, Im going to hell.

Well, maybe not hell, but those involved in this production deserve a little time in purgatory.

Besides the sexual humor, which includes jokes about the teenaged girls being promiscuous and seeing the cross-dressing sheriff in bra and thong, theres the rest of the films humor, which occasionally hits the right note, but too often falls flat. And though there is the inclusion of two Christmas carols proclaiming Christ as savior, this positive is lost due to the falseness of every other emotion displayed. But even worse is the fact that this is an unfunny comedy.

The humor of seeing a guy bested at every turn by the frustrating nutcase that has recently moved to town is tricky business. Directed with a heavy hand, which they are here, the vengeance visuals can come across as mean-spirited, more unnerving than funny. The delivery of these sight gags by writer, director and cast tends toward the sadistic (its hard to laugh at a guys Christmas tree catching fire and nearly burning down the house). This revenge-that-backfires humor has worked for Broderick before (The Cable Guy, Election) and DeVito (well, DeVito is usually the frustrating nutcase), but here every single gag has been done before and with far more sparkle.

Ive said it a hundred times: no one sets out to make a bad movie. But every time I generously offer up that statement, a film like Deck the Halls comes along to challenge the theory. DeVito does DeVito, which is fine, but he seems to be drifting through each scene with all the profundity of a snowfall that wont stick. And poor Matthew Broderick summons up the same stodgy characterization hes used in every film post Ferris Bueller, this one more unfunny and unlikable than any previous incarnation.

As for the ladies, Kristin Davis (The Shaggy Dog) and Kristin Chenoweth (RV) play what amounts to Alice and Trixie. Indeed, Ms. Davis seems to be making a career out of playing the wise but put-upon housewife. And the kids are about as memorable as Rudolphs fellow reindeer.

Like I said at the top, these are talented people, so we do get a few laughs. But for a comedy to work, every aspect of the filmmaking process must commingle like spices in a freshly baked pumpkin pie. Sadly, the end result of Deck the Halls is half-baked. Thats what we have here a half-baked Christmas pie. And two squabs.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Summary
Crude Language: Several crude sexual comments that stick out like a sore thumb in a family promoted film.
Obscene Language: Two minor expletives (hells)
Profanity: Exasperated the Matthew Broderick character says Jesus. Those standing by him at a Christmas outing are shocked, so he pretends to be singing about Jesus. It was unfunny and offensive. Several uses of the expression, Oh my God.
Violence: Slapstick buffoonery such as falling through ice and nearly freezing and nearly being electrocuted.
Sexual Intercourse: None, though a great deal of sexual innuendo. Teen girls dressed provocatively.
Nudity: None
Homosexual Conduct: None, though the town sheriff is a cross dresser.
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: Several crude sexually-laced jokes.
Drug Abuse: None
Other: None
Running Time: 90 minutes
Intended Audience: Family

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